Texas Rangers

Angels expected flood of memories to hit them in first trip to Texas since Skaggs passed

Mike Trout on death of Tyler Skaggs: ‘I lost a teammate, a friend, a brother ’

Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout choked up when describing the loss of teammate Tyler Skaggs, who was found dead in his Southlake hotel room on Monday.
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Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout choked up when describing the loss of teammate Tyler Skaggs, who was found dead in his Southlake hotel room on Monday.

Andrew Heaney grew up in Oklahoma, attended games at Globe Life Park, and even kind of, sort of rooted for the Texas Rangers.

A left-hander for the Los Angeles Angels, Heaney has childhood memories of the ballpark now celebrating its final season in operation. However, the events of July 1 changed all of that.

That’s when teammate Tyler Skaggs passed away suddenly and, as of yet, without explanation in a Southlake hotel room. The Angels returned Monday to Globe Life Park for their first series since losing their teammate.

It wasn’t easy coming back to Texas, not that anything has been easy since Skaggs’ death.

“It’s funny for a place I came when I was a kid, this is where I came, this is the team that I kind of like rooted for,” Heaney said. “The biggest stadium that I had visited. Then that happens. It completely erases all the good memories that I have here. It’s like, I’m over it. Glad there will be a new place.”

The Rangers and Angels opened a four-game series Monday, and on Tuesday will play the game that was postponed the night of Skaggs’ death as part of a day-night doubleheader.

The Angels have gone through highs and lows since July 1, with the highest of highs the combined no-hitter thrown July 12 in their first home game after Skaggs’ death. They can’t come to the field without instantly remembering the likable Skaggs.

They still travel with his jersey, and his locker at Angel Stadium remains untouched.

“This city brings up bad memories because this is where he passed,“ two-time American League MVP Mike Trout said. “We come to the ballpark, everything we do, just reminds you of him. See his jersey up. See his locker. It’s tough, as a friend, teammate. We’ll get through it. It’s just, we’re always going to be thinking about him.”

The Tarrant County Medical Examiner performed an autopsy July 2, but the findings won’t be announced until October. A private funeral was held July 22, and Rangers outfielder/first baseman Scott Heineman was in attendance.

Heineman, who worked out in the off-season with Skaggs and played against him as a youth, was recalled from Triple A Nashville before the game Monday.

“I got to go home for his funeral, which was great,” Heineman said earlier this month, a few days after making his MLB debut. “Every time I lace up, I’m thinking about him, and I’ve got his name and number across my hat. I’m just constantly thinking about him.”

Heaney and Trout both said they are looking forward to playing Globe Life Field next season and hoping that helps them leave some of the bad memories of losing Skaggs behind. Outfielder Kole Calhoun, though, said that playing in Arlington will always jar the Angels’ memories.

For him, it was significant that the Angels switched hotels in July and again for this series, their last at Globe Life Park. Like his teammates, coming back wasn’t easy.

“Kind of a little bit of a takes you back to like an empty feeling kind of thing,” Calhoun said.

The Angels’ saving grace has been baseball, which they resumed playing the day after Skaggs died. They entered Monday 20-21 since July 2, but the games have diverted their attention away from the tragedy.

“The best way to put it, is that as you come into the clubhouse or even into the hotel, it reminds you of the last time we were here when Tyler passed away,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “I think we were very aware that it was going to come up again, very aware that at some point we were going to come back to Arlington and it was going to remind everyone of what happened last time we were here.

“I said it before, I’ll say it again: I think once the game starts, it acts as a distraction and probably helps in the healing process. There’s really no wrong way to handle it.”

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After 11 seasons covering the Rangers for the Star-Telegram, Jeff Wilson knows that baseball is a 24/7/365 business and there is far more to baseball than just the 162 games each season. There’s also more to Jeff -- like a family and impressive arsenals of Titleist hats and adidas shoes -- but sometimes it’s hard to tell.